6 Tips for Keeping Your Tech Skills Sharp (and Why You Should)Laura Stone
Lawyers know they have to stay on top of the latest changes in law. There’s a reason it’s ORPC Rule 1.1 – it’s just common sense.
Similarly though, lawyers have both ethical and practical reasons to maintain at least a cursory knowledge of current technology. Comment 6 to Rule 1.1 was even amended to provide:
 To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice … including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology. (emphasis added)
WHY IT MATTERS
Lawyers don’t need to stay up to date just because it’s dictated by the ORPC. The most obvious reason is that, despite the inevitable learning curves, technology exists to make life easier. Utilizing the calendaring tools in your practice management software can help keep you on track, avoiding those dreaded missed deadlines. Sure, it may take you a few days to get used to using it, but in the long run it will save you so much more than just time.
Technology can add value for your clients too. For example, if you practice family law, there are mobile apps designed to help manage some of the issues that arise in co-parenting. You don’t necessarily need to be an expert on every app on the market, but spending a few minutes looking into which might be the best for your clients could lead to more satisfied clients who are more likely to refer you to their friends and family.
One of the absolute most important reasons, however, is for the protection of you, your firm and your clients. You use a computer, a smart phone, email, software – there’s no escaping the fact that you’re already using some technology. Even if you only use the bare minimum, you still need to stay on top of things like automatic updates and cybersecurity trends to avoid leaving yourself vulnerable to threats.
KEEPING UP IS EASIER THAN IT SOUNDS
One thing to remember is that staying abreast of technology doesn’t mean lurching from one fad to the next (and, honestly, don’t do that), but in addition to maintaining a good understanding of things you currently use, you should keep an eye on trends and consider how new technology may benefit you and your clients. In early 2020 for example, when the world was going virtual, immediately jumping from one video conference meeting platform to the other as each rose in popularity would have been a disaster. Instead, companies that adapted most smoothly saw the trend of virtual meetings, considered how it could impact their work and their clients – both positively and negatively – and researched which platform, if any, best fit their needs.
So, with all that in mind, here are some ways you can keep from being left behind without making it your full-time job.
- Accept that change is inevitable. Unfortunately, technology is practically synonymous with change. From software updates to outright new products, it won’t ever stop evolving faster and faster. Ignoring it won’t make it go away, it’ll only make the world move on without you. Keeping an open mind and accepting this inevitability is the first step in adapting to it.
- Don’t isolate yourself. If the word “networking” grips your chest like an icy fist, you’re not alone. Networking receptions combine all the worst parts of a job interview with speed dating – and everyone hates them. Fortunately, in both the age of COVID and just thanks to our connected world, networking can be as simple as joining a Facebook group or connecting with fellow lawyers on social media. Practice sections and bar associations can also be invaluable. The OBA maintains contact information for section leadership as well as a list of county bars. However you connect, don’t be afraid to ask your peers for advice or input.
- Mix it into your casual reading. Look for websites like Attorney at Work or ABA Journal that have a broad tech section, and make a habit of perusing the articles once a month or so. Also, keep an eye out for technology issues of bar journals or tech-related columns and articles, like the Oklahoma Bar Journal’s Law Practice Tips column.
- Utilize knowledgebases. Whether learning about something you already use or trying to research a new product, nearly every software, hardware or app has a support knowledgebase with tips and tutorials. Some even host a forum where users can post questions and other users or company reps can respond (sort of like the “Questions” part of Amazon product pages). One example is Microsoft Office, which has a whole site dedicated to showing you how to use every feature, handily categorized by programs and ranging from beginner to advanced users. Some law-specific software companies even offer CLE credit for their on-demand video tutorials.
- Let Google help. This sounds elementary but honestly, Google is one of your best resources. If you’ve heard a term you don’t fully understand, look it up. Want on-demand tips for cybersecurity, try something like “email security tips.” Or maybe you’re just wondering if your software has a certain capability, so you could try something simple like “add multiple reminders in Clio.” Using the family law example before, Googling “co-parenting apps” returns tons of reviews and comparisons. Be aware that ads for specific products will be at the top of the results, but even those may have helpful tips if they’re for products you currently use or are considering.
- Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s better. Like I said, don’t think you have to adopt new technology just because it’s there – knowing about it is good though. You can’t know if it’s better if you don’t know it exists, but as with anything, carefully consider any changes and use your best judgement as to what’s best for your firm and your clients. You have to maintain anything you have so be sure you allow yourself enough time to keep your skills and software up-to-date.